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2021: Maintaining Hope in the Year(s) of Living Dangerously -Wes Chester, MA CAGS- Director, Expressive Arts Institute

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2021: Maintaining Hope in the Year(s) of Living Dangerously -Wes Chester, MA CAGS- Director, Expressive Arts Institute

January 1st, 2021
As I look back across the nearly six decades of my life, I can never remember a time when I felt so circumspect about wishing everyone “Happy” New Year’s. It seems almost wrong. I don’t want to put pressure on people right now to feel “happy.” So many are grieving the loss of jobs, homes, family members. The holiday season is already known to trigger depression and anxiety. Add in literal isolation and the usual polite greeting sounds tone deaf to the challenges of a COVID New Year. Into this season that holds both celebration and loss, I’d like to offer a different greeting, and a journaling exercise for the new year. 

Wishing you a Grateful, Healthy and Hopeful New Year

Gratitude and thank-yous: I have so many personal gratitudes I can hardly begin here; including the fact that my family has thus far avoided the worst of COVID. That I still have a living mother. That in spite of losing my gallery, and having to give up my business space, I am still able to work, albeit on screen…
But I am also very grateful for YOU in my world. Congratulations on having survived the virus. Kudos for not averting your eyes from the ongoing social justice crisis of the prison industrial complex, and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Cheers for getting out to vote, risking your own life for the health of the democracy. Thanks for wearing your mask, streaming your favorite holiday gathering rituals, making holiday treats for one or two instead of the whole crew. Thanks for skipping the party, the dinner out, the coffee shop and the bar. Thanks for the staycation. Thanks for your patience with older relatives on zoom (“You’re still muted mom”) Thanks for enduring the political and social turmoil and the daily onslaught of economic collapse. Thanks for closing your business, or changing your business model to save lives. Thanks for continuing to resist irresponsible governance that has made the US suddenly one of the most dangerous countries on earth, and doing the right thing.
To write in your journal: What are you personally grateful for in 2020? Who and what are you thankful for in your world?
For the past two decades I have done a land art piece on new year’s day, as a part of the contemplation of the cycle of the seasons (photos Judith Greer Essex)
Health: First, ask yourself what’s working and keep doing it. 2021 is time to double down on self care, and care for others. Just because a vaccine exists does not lower your risk of infection. Until we can all have the vaccination, we are each other’s best protection And keeping yourself safe from COVID is only the beginning of self-care. It’s an extraordinary time of forced isolation and reflection. A good time to examine habits new and old. I made the decision in early May of 2020 that alcohol and pandemics are not a good cocktail for me. And after missing the gym for many months, I returned to a very old habit, running for aerobic health. I do yoga a few times a week for flexibility. I facilitate a weekly online writer’s group to keep honoring my need to write and share with others. (Writing Your Way Home, Thursday Evenings 6-8 pm ) I am keeping my diet as healthy as possible. I am also in the process of making my home safer, more organized and more pleasant, since we are spending so much time here. Still developing my space for working that feels professional and pleasant and separate from my home.
To write in your journal: What things are you doing or planning in 2021 to promote your mental and physical health?
Certainly 2020 offered some of the most dismal times in American History. Considering all the challenge and tragedy of 2020, and a pandemic raging at record levels, can we still be hopeful? I believe it’s not only possible, but necessary. Without hope, what is to keep us going with our own self care and care for others?
In this pandemic, with my mortality suddenly more present and clear than ever, I am looking into my life.
  • Am I doing something worthwhile with my time?
  • Adapting to current circumstances to keep my work not only alive but lively?
  • Am I making changes I wish to see in the world?
  • What do I want to accomplish to feel effective in the world?
I am certainly looking to broaden my own influence in my field over the years ahead with my latest writing project. Songs also keep arriving and I am studying how to record more of my own music at a higher quality. My creative and professional projects feel positive and meaningful in the world. And I continue to believe in the power of loving others openly and without condition as a path towards hope. I have hope that I can open my heart to those who have been led to be fearful of the new president, mistrustful of science and medicine, and help them see that caring for each other is not a political issue.
Learning a new skill, connecting with a new community, All of these things are
To write in your journal: Check in with your own heart. What hopes are present in your awareness as you look towards 2021. What longing unfulfilled will find closure? What new doors are opening even now? What do you need to learn /practice/ experience in 2021 to help you fulfill your goals?
Finally, Consider the steps: Goals neither set nor accomplish themselves. Attitudes emerge from effort and action, and progress comes from steering the course you have set. Choose one of the hopeful actions you have described in your journaling and consider what is the “very next step” towards creating or sustaining that action in your life. Write it down. Choose a date for its completion. Make sure you are keeping the steps small and specific. If you wanted to bake a cake, you start by finding the recipe. (Yes. Gathering information about what you need to achieve your goal IS a step.) Voíla. You are one step closer to achieving your hopeful action.
Wishing you a Grateful, Healthy and Hopeful New Year
from Me, from Judith Greer, and from
the Expressive Arts Institute.
Looking for your hopeful action in the year ahead? 
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